ABOUT QUALITY OF INFORMATION. INTERVIEW WITH STEFAN SAGMEISTER.

08 November 2006
By Visualogue
By Visualogue

The organisers of the 2003 Icograda Congress Nagoya, Japan, interviewed some of the lecturers. Through their answers, they reveal common concerns and different perspectives. During the next weeks and months, we will publish some of these interviews to inspire you to attend this important international event.

Stefan Sagmeister, a native of Austria, received his MFA in graphic design from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and, as a Fulbright Scholar, a master's degree from Pratt Institute in New York. He formed the New York City based Sagmeister, Inc. in 1993 and has since designed graphics and packaging for the Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Aerosmith and Pat Metheny. His work has been nominated four times for the Grammies and has won many international design awards. In 2001, a monograph about his work titled, "Sagmeister, Made you Look" was published by Booth-Clibborn Editions. Stefan will present a lecture from the perspective of creativity as a main theme initiative for Visualogue Congress in Nagoya during October 2003.


Visualogue: The theme of this congress is VISUALOGUE: Quality of Information. What image does this bring to mind?

Stefan Sagmeister: It brings to mind the forty-five emails I received today. Forty-three of them I would never have gotten, if it had been more difficult for the senders to send them. The quality of the information in them was beyond comment, just bullshit. A concentration on quality instead of quantity would not only make our job as designers more satisfying, I suspect it would also be a welcome change for the audience.

Visualogue: Please describe one of your recent concerns or themes of interest, either within your field or personally.

Stefan Sagmeister: This is not a recent concern, it's been on my mind for quite some time: Is it possible to touch somebody's heart with graphic design? I do know it's very, very difficult. The only instance where I knew I as a designer touched someone's heart for sure was when my friend Reini came to New York from Vienna and was afraid that none of the sophisticated New York women would talk to him and he'd wind up very lonely.

We printed a poster with his photo and the headline: "Dear girls, please be nice to Reini" and plastered it all over the Lower East Side. He was touched and got a girlfriend.

Visualogue: What are your expectations for this Congress? Alternately, what fruit do you expect the Congress to bear?

Stefan Sagmeister: Meet nice people. That's all I can hope for.

Visualogue: Please provide us with a message directed to the younger generation,(design students and young working designers).

Stefan Sagmeister: Become a designer if you love design. Don't, if you want to be a fine artist and think of design as an easier way to earn money. It will not work. There will always be people who love this field and they will always produce much better work than the ones who entered it because it was a "sensible" thing to do.

Visualogue: Concerning your partnerships with various clients, please describe the kind of relationships you have built in the past, and/or the kind you expect to build in the future.

Stefan Sagmeister: We always designed many things for the music industry. I loved it. But like most things in life, I started taking those jobs for granted and going through the same problems started to become a bit boring. So we expanded into "socially relevant" designs - just things I am interested in and would like to support. We also do some regular corporate design work, it's a good exercise and it pays.

Visualogue: Please answer the following question in the form of a message directed toward mature professional designers. Clearly, our modern communities are grappling with regional and cultural discord and face serious economic challenges. Given this environment, how might designers make a vital contribution to society today?

Stefan Sagmeister: Being not mature myself, I don't think I have anything to say to a mature audience of designers. What I have to say to myself is: Work slower. Do less work. Do it better.

Visualogue: In light of this answer, what are your thoughts about the meaning of - and possibilities for - the design profession in the society of the future?

Stefan Sagmeister: As it turned out, 90% of what we do as professional designers is selling or promoting. I have nothing against selling (I come from a family of fashion retailers), but I do think design can do so much more too. It can inform, delight, make fun, support and simplify someone's life. I would love to concentrate more on those aspects in the future.

Visualogue: What message would you like to convey to the audience in your lecture/presentation?

Stefan Sagmeister: I will talk about the question if it is possible to touch somebody's heart with graphic design. Movies and books seem to be able to do this on a regular basis, but it is much rarer for design to strike a chord.

Visualogue: We have scheduled an international forum for those who teach in design-related institutions to take place prior to the opening of the Congress. Please give us your point of view on design education.

Stefan Sagmeister: I myself loved art school; if it had been up to me I would have never started working and would still be a happy participant of a graduate program somewhere. In the US there are at the moment too many schools graduating too many designers, right now even excellent graduates can't find a position. While this might be difficult for many schools to do, fewer but better educated graduates would be a goal.




For more information, contact:

2003 Icograda Congress Nagoya, Japan
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Naka-ku, Nagoya 460-0008 Japan
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